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This post is sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA and the writer was hosted for this trip.
Disney Saratoga Springs
Disney Saratoga Springs Resort is a Disney Vacation Club property with great views and plenty of room for families to spread out. Situated near the shopping and dining mecca that is Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney), it’s one of the most sprawling Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts in all of Florida.
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort is an absolute gem, with equestrian and eye-popping Victorian charm sprinkled throughout to reflect its namesake, Saratoga Springs, NY. That upstate New York town has a rich horse racing tradition that is elegantly on display throughout the Disney resort.
What’s a Preferred Villa?
My family was hosted in 2021 in a one-bedroom “preferred” villa in the Congress Park section of the resort. I didn’t know what to expect from the “preferred” part of my reservation in Lake Buena Vista. But once we arrived, we realized that it was far from a gimmick designed to extract more DVC points with little in return.
We were treated to a spectacular view of the lake separating Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa from Disney Springs, with the picturesque Paddlefish and Boathouse Restaurants just begging us to try jumbo lump crab-topped fries or oysters on the half-shell.
A New View of Saratoga Springs Resort
Some quick background about my family and me: We’ve been Disney Vacation Club members since 2012 and it’s some of the best money we’ve ever spent. We’ve loved all of the different resorts we’ve stayed at in both Orlando and California. Each has its own character and charm.
Truth-be-told though, for the longest time, I’ve undersold and under-appreciated Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. The first time we stayed there was in 2012. We were traveling with friends whom we are so close to that they’re family at this point.
I remember finding the resort good, but not remotely memorable. The rooms felt uninspired and uninteresting. Honestly, I can’t remember any one thing that stood out.
Updates at Saratoga Springs
That just goes to show the importance of the renovations happening across Disney properties, including Saratoga Springs. The installation of the space-saving Murphy beds and fold-down twin bed (I go into detail about these later) are wonderful.
Disney has been taking design cues from big cities and doesn’t waste any space. You’ll now find USB ports for charging your various devices in dressers and nightstands. Thankfully there wasn’t one near the whirlpool tub or I’m sure someone would try it and be…shocked…at the outcome. (OK, I threw in a Dad Joke for you there, but seriously, do NOT use any electronic devices while plugged in and showering or bathing.)
In 2019, we stayed at the Treehouse Villas at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa and were extremely impressed with the entire room, décor and the value-per-point that we paid as DVC members. That positive experience helped set the tone for a reimagined viewpoint of the overall resort.
5 Sections to Disney Saratoga Springs
Saratoga Springs is broken up into 5 sections (I’m not breaking down the Treehouse villas here. I find that they are so unique that they deserve their own feature. If that’s something you’re interested in, drop a note in the comments. If there’s enough interest, I’ll write a piece on it, as they are fantastic and fun.)
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Here’s a quick breakdown on the others and what I consider to be their key selling points, besides a designated bus stop at each:
The theming of the pools is my favorite part of this area. You can feel the horse-racing influence throughout and the kiddie pool has these fantastically-themed “Starting Gates” where the little ones can see who is the fastest.
This section is the farthest away from the check-in area and is the only section of these 5 without its own swimming pool. If you’re looking for peace and quiet at Saratoga Springs, this is your best bet. Don’t let the lack of the pool dissuade you, it’s only a short walk to the Paddock Pool and its epic waterslide.
All of the Paddock buildings border on a picturesque lake to provide serene views during your time relaxing in the room. (You may have to request a preferred room to get one of these views.) Along with the lake comes a fantastic swimming pool with a 146-foot long twisting waterslide that your kids, or maybe even you, will have fun with for hours.
There is a small lake here, similar to the Paddock, that you may enjoy views of, but my favorite feature of The Springs is the proximity to the main pool and the main dining options. You’ll be less than a 10-minute walk from 3 restaurants and the largest pool in all of Saratoga Springs – High Rock Spring Pool. It features its own magnificent waterslide and 2 whirlpool spas.
This is where we stayed during our visit. My favorite part about this area was the proximity to Disney Springs. I love food, and being only a 10-minute walk from the mouth-watering magnificence of so many superb dining choices was quite a treat.
We like to try a new restaurant each time we visit, and this time it was Wine Bar George. The flaming cheese was quite a fun experience where servers light an entire tray of cheese on fire, about 3 feet from your table, and then put out the flames with a lemon. Then they ever-so-gently push the bottom part of your jaw back up to the top part of your jaw after watching the fiery light show.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Here’s how Disney Vacation Club works and how to know if it’s the right thing for your family. If you want to try before you buy, here’s how to rent DVC points for big savings on these high-end Disney resort properties.
Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa Rooms
If you’ve never stayed at a DVC resort before, you are in for a treat. This is no ordinary resort hotel offering! There are beautiful Disney accents everywhere, from fences with Mickey-shaped cutouts, to artwork matching the style of the resort with familiar Disney characters. The Victorian charm oozes, and there is a quiet peacefulness as you walk around the grounds.
There are a few types of
- Washer / Dryer
- Kitchenette (fully stocked with cookware and utensils for dining in)
- Private Balcony
- Custom Disney artwork specific to that WDW resort
- Living Room
Even the Beds are More Fun!
Depending on the type of room you reserve, you may also be treated to some of the newest renovations, including a Murphy bed. (If you’re unfamiliar with this term don’t worry, just think of it like a sleeper sofa, but MAGICAL. Just picture a couch against a wall, except the wall is hiding a Transformer, and when you pull down the wall, a full-size bed magically appears in the place of the couch.)
This is one of the more brilliant uses of space that the Walt Disney Company has reimagined lately. My kids loved this feature and exhaustively tested out the functionality by taking down the bed, and putting the bed back into the wall…over…and over….and over again…. Really…..Well….Tested.
Our one-bedroom villa had a king-size bed, which is a huge plus for me, as I’m 6’1 and a queen bed just doesn’t cut it. That, and my wife needs to have room to escape because I’ve been told I’m a furnace producing heat at the level of the fire exploding from the nearby Rainforest Cafe every 10-15 minutes.
Another plus of the villa is the whirlpool spa. After you’ve been walking around the theme parks for 6-10 hours straight, coming back to your hotel room and soaking in the whirlpool is exactly what you need to energize yourself for the spectacular nightlife at Disney Springs. One of my favorite nighttime activities is heading to Raglan Road and enjoying live performances by singers who will transport your mind to Ireland.
Other Room Options at Disney Saratoga Springs
To give you a quick idea of other room types available, Saratoga Springs offers:
Deluxe Studio (Standard/Preferred, Sleeps 4)
- 2 BR Villa (Standard/Preferred, Sleeps 8)
- 2BR Lock-Off Villa (Standard/Preferred, Sleeps 8). A lock-off villa is a Deluxe Studio Villa and a 1BR Villa with a connecting door
- Treehouse Villas (Sleeps 9)
- 3 BR Grand Villa (Standard/Preferred, Sleeps 12)
Resort Features and Check-In
When we check into a Disney resort, I always make it a point to stop by the resort lobby. I’ve almost always got a question or two that the concierge is able to answer faster than you can type Google. The concierge can also help with bookings and cancellations that you may need.
The lobbies at Disney resort hotels are luxurious and grandiose, and are worth stopping by, and Saratoga Springs is no exception. It even has a special name, The Carriage House. My favorite touch was artwork of animated horses featured in various Disney works. Khan from Mulan looked especially good, plus it’s just fun to say “Khan from Mulan.”
Visiting the resort lobby is also an excellent excuse to visit the nearby gift shop. We enjoy picking up something specific to each DVC resort whenever we stay somewhere new, so the gift shop is a must-stop for us. (If you have any fun traditions that you do when you stay at a new Disney property, drop a comment below the article. I’d love to hear about it!)
If you’ve ever been on a Disney Cruise, then you’ll recognize the name of the full-service spa on the ground called Senses. I’m too much of a park junkie to head to the spa, but I’ve been to the one on the Disney Fantasy Cruise Ship and it’s sublime.
That visit was the first time I’ve ever paid to have someone give me a shave, and I’d absolutely do it again. The couples massage is a wonderful way to treat you and your partner, but not your bank account.
In all of my many stays at WDW properties, I’ve never once worked out. I’ve thought about it (hopefully burned 10 calories considering it), and even brought workout clothes once or twice, but it hasn’t happened.
That doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy the fitness center at Saratoga Springs. It’s an excellent opportunity to burn off the churros, or Mickey ice cream bars, or the (takes a deep breath) mouth-watering, blueberry muffins with a hint of lemon zest that seriously made me consider waiting in the 20-minute socially-distanced line to Starbucks again on Main Street in the Magic-Kingdom.
Dining Options at Saratoga Springs
On your way to checking out The Carriage House, you likely noticed a few of the dining options on the Saratoga Springs grounds. In no order of preference, they are:
- The Artist’s Palette. Think of this as more of a quick-service restaurant, but with Mickey waffles. You can check out the full menu here. I really liked the glass sculptures hanging from the ceiling throughout. They were colorful and vibrant and added a really fun feel to the space.
- The Turf Club Bar and Grill. I think Disney did a great job decorating this space. There are framed jerseys of jockeys throughout, and TVs spread around to kick back and watch some sporting events. Unfortunately, it was temporarily unavailable to dine at when we visited, but the menu actually made me drool: Asian inspired crispy shrimp, jumbo lump crab cakes, duck confit and prime rib to mention just a few. And have you joined my drool party? For the kids, the restaurant offers cheeseburgers, salmon, chicken breasts, pasta and hot dogs! But, if your kids are like mine, they’ll absolutely ask about the prime rib on the kid’s menu.
- The Paddock Grill. This is a really cute pool-side bar, but it’s most convenient to use if you’re staying in The Paddock area of Saratoga Springs. We didn’t go this visit, but the Saratoga Burger (1/3-lb burger topped with pepper jack cheese, guacamole and smoked bacon) almost got me to head over. If I had told my wife they had fish tacos with pineapple salsa and cilantro (drooling continues), she may have invented a way to alter time and fit in a detour. Full menu can be viewed here.
What about the Swimming Pools!?!?!
What’s that? You like to swim? Pretty sure Saratoga Springs is not the place for you. I’m sure you’ll be disappointed by the FIVE DIFFERENT POOL OPTIONS!
Here’s the rundown:
- Main Pool (AKA High Rock Spring Pool). This pool has just about everything you’re going to want, except maybe small crowds. It’s large, and has multiple whirlpool spas, a pool bar, a great waterslide and an arcade nearby.
- The Paddock Pool. Remember the Paddock Grill I mentioned earlier? Are you still dreaming of that burger? Combine it with a visit to the Paddock Pool and you’ve got a two-for-one-special on your hands. Well done! Reward yourself with a Mickey-shaped ice cream bar later. Then, burn off the calories going down the 146-foot-long waterslide.
- Leisure Pools. The Treehouse Villas, the Grandstand and Congress Park areas all have what Disney refers to as Leisure Pools. They’re smaller, and don’t have waterslides, but they do have a whirlpool spa. The leisure pools in Congress Park and The Grandstand both have a children’s play area, and BBQ grilling available nearby. If you like to bring your own food and cook meals like we do on our DVC stays, then you’ll love the ability to cook out and get in some pool time.
Getting to the Disney Parks: Saratoga Springs Review
At less than a 15-minute drive to (almost) any of the four theme parks, Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort is excellently positioned. We stayed for 3 days and I liked knowing how long of a drive it was to each park. This is what I found:
- EPCOT, 10 minutes
- Magic Kingdom, 10 minutes
- Animal Kingdom, 17 minutes. This park could be 40 minutes away and we’d still go. The entire family loves Animal Kingdom Park so much. Animal Kingdom Lodge is also our home DVC resort.
- Water Parks
- Blizzard Beach: 13 minutes
- Typhoon Lagoon: 7 minutes
- Ghirardelli’s: 7-10 minute walk. Listen, I know Ghirardelli’s isn’t a theme park, but it should be. Could you imagine? If you’ve been to Hersheypark, then you probably could, but that’s beside the point. Ghirardelli’s has this magnificent monster of a dessert called the Land’s End Salted Caramel Brownie Sundae. It is: vanilla ice cream, a full-size Ghirardelli chocolate brownie, caramel sauce, sea salt and handmade hot fudge topped with whipped cream, caramel sauce, Ghirardelli chocolate sauce and a cherry. ONLY 1700 CALORIES! Have one for breakfast and you don’t need to eat again until tomorrow 🙂
- Lake Buena Vista Golf Course: 10 minute walk….ish. Fine, this isn’t a theme park either. Perhaps I should rename this list, but that ship has sailed. In Florida, you can’t turn 3 corners without stumbling onto another golf course and I counted at least 4 within 15 minutes of Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa. The Lake Buena Vista Golf Course begins on the grounds of the deluxe resort and is absolutely worth your time if you need time away from the theme parks.
- Hollywood Studios: 10 minutes
Saratoga Springs Review: That’s a Wrap!
I was wrong about Saratoga Springs. We’ve used our Disney Vacation Club membership to stay at many DVC resorts and we love them all. After staying at Copper Creek, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Old Key West and the Riviera, my memories of Saratoga Springs from my first trip in 2012 just paled in comparison.
I’m really glad my family had the opportunity to stay here again. It’s lush and peaceful and elegant.
For us, the “preferred” room option at Saratoga Springs may become like the Savannah View at Animal Kingdom Lodge. Once you’ve experienced either, it’s hard to go back.
Thanks for taking the time to read this review, and leave questions and fun Disney memories in the comments! As Mickey likes to say “See Ya Real Soon!”